By Abby Pitkowsky and Dan Tatar, representing the collaboration of The Center for Israel Education, The iCenter, the Jewish Agency for Israel, The Jewish Education Project and Unpacked Media
Conclusions are most meaningful when partnered with reflections. We’ve now come to the conclusion of a significantly meaningful period in the Jewish calendar, Pesach through Shavuot. Those 60 or so days seem to contain a meaningful day at every twist and turn of the week, some related to our relationship with Israel. Reflecting on the shifts in approaches and techniques that were necessitated this year to celebrate and observe these days, to ensure meaning, and to strengthen connections with our local and global Jewish community is especially important this year, at this time. While acknowledging the wide and deep losses from not having “normal programming,” our reflection also uncovers significant gains that are worthy to unpack, hold up to share and hold on to as we move ahead, either returning to our familiar normal, or learning a new one.
This year, no one knew what these days would look or feel like. In-person celebrations for special days like Yom Ha'atzmaut were sadly not an option, and no one had a play-book on large scale commemoration and celebrations in a virtual manner during a pandemic; (and even if a play-book was available it wouldn’t have helped; the State of Israel wasn’t around during the last pandemic in 1918 so the challenge and joy of celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut didn’t exist!). Instead of radio silence or separate small scale virtual gatherings on this day—mirroring what at times occurs under normal circumstances – we saw something deserving of an “al hanissim”—miraculous—a collective spirit among five organizations focused almost exclusively on delivering meaningful, engaging and fun content to people all over the world. The Center for Israel Education, The iCenter, the Jewish Agency for Israel, The Jewish Education Project and Unpacked worked together to develop #ConnectWithIsrael, a full day festival-like celebration on the Sunday following Yom Ha'atzmaut, viewed by thousands. As we reflect on this collaboration, and other collaborations between Pesach and Shavuot, we’re moving forward and doing more planning with key learnings:
Post-Shavuot, with no major holidays for a while, we should remember the power of a few major events, with real substance, as opposed to smaller disparate events with planners fighting for the same audience. We should also remember and model the sense of purpose and unity we felt, and that we helped to create, through #ConnectWithIsrael. We should remember that what mattered was the content and wide array of programming that brought meaning to people and strengthened their connections with Israel, to their own Jewish identity and local Jewish communities. We were, and are, stronger and more effective together.
Abby Pitkowsky is Director of the Westchester Region and Israel Education at The Jewish Education Project. Dan Tatar is Director of Outreach at The iCenter for Israel Education. Email them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know what new collaborations you are interested in trying.